First EU environmental indicators published

European Environment Agency launches annual reporting programme for key EU "signals"

The European Environment Agency (EEA) has published the EU's first set of environmental progress indicators. In a report released today, the agency confirms that most trends are negative or neutral. It plans to publish indicator reports annually from now on, with the series due to evolve into the environmental component of a system measuring EU progress towards sustainable development.

Environmental indicators reveal environmental trends by measuring progress towards legislative targets or developments in underlying environmental variables. Recent years have seen increased attention to development of indicators, but the agency's report, containing dozens of indicators based on statistics from Eurostat, is the first definitive statement of EU environmental progress.

Entitled "Environmental Signals 2000," the report will be published by the agency each year, between more in-depth five-yearly "state-of-the-environment" reports (ENDS Daily 24 June 1999). Following the "DPSIR" methodology, the indicators reveal trends in environmental driving forces, pressures, states, impacts and policy responses. Indicators are also broken down into country-by-country comparisons.

Presenting the report today, EEA director Domingo Jiménez Beltrán said the indicators would let policymakers both "name and shame" and "name and fame" those states which were lagging or leading in tackling environmental problems or implementing greener legislation. It would also help the EU to measure the integration of environment into sectoral decision making and "benchmark overall environmental progress," he said.

The report concludes that most trends are currently either moving downwards or, at best, stationary. Those heading most rapidly in the wrong direction are energy and transport use and waste generation. Bright points include overall EU progress towards packaging recycling targets and the decline in sulphur pollution.

According to the agency, indicators presented each year will vary depending on topicality, data quality and environmental importance. A list of ten "headline" indicators chosen from the report has almost been finalised, it said. These will be used to communicate trends to the public.

The headline indicators, along with more detailed ones looking at the environmental, economic and social situation in different economic sectors, will contribute to a list of sustainability indicators complementing an EU sustainable development strategy being drawn up by the European Commission (ENDS Daily 24 November 1999). An agency official said the indicators would be chosen once the strategy was elaborated, and would take four to five years to develop.

Follow Up:
European Environment Agency, tel: +45 33 36 71 00; see also "Environmental signals 2000", a press release and a Power Point presentation of the main findings.

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